Parents have been warned that voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa are making children rude and antisocial.
Scientists fear that the persistent use of such devices by kids means that they are not taught how to say please and thank you when they demand the device carries out an action from them.
Boffins are also worried that youngsters aren’t taught how to read body language either as they are speaking to a gadget.
Cambridge University ’s Dr Anmol Arora has now warned parents that the interactions children have with these devices at a young age may be crucial factor as to how the child will develop later on in life.
He cautioned parents: “Interacting with the devices at a crucial stage in social and emotional development might have long-term consequences on empathy, compassion and critical thinking.”
Writing in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, he added that: “With digital devices there is no expectation that polite terms, such as please or thank you should be used.
“There is no need to consider the tone of voice and whether the command being issued may be interpreted as rude or obnoxious.”
However, professor Pete Etchells, a psychologist at Bath Spa University, countered this, saying: “There is no evidence I am aware of to support the idea such devices have a negative impact on development.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Amazon said that a kids’ version of Alexa was created in order to aid children’s interaction with the device.
The spokesperson said: “Alexa is designed to provide accurate and helpful information.
“Our Amazon Kids service on Alexa provides parental controls which help parents manage the ways their children interact with technology and serves age-appropriate content.
“We also offer polite mode which encourages children to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when speaking to Alexa.”
How to enable Amazon Kids on Alexa?
The Amazon Kids setting on Alexa lets parents restrict access.
It gives Alexa instructions on what can and cannot be used, lets you set time limits on when, and for how long the smart speaker can be used. It even goes as far as blocking explicit lyrics when listening to Amazon Music, Apple Music or Spotify.
It initially launched in the USA in September 2020, but has now been made available in the UK as well. And the best thing about it is that it is free to use as it comes built-in to the smart speaker.
Here’s how to enable it:
- Open the Alexa app
- Select Devices
- Select Echo & Alexa, then your device
- Select the settings icon, then Amazon Kids
- Turn Amazon Kids on (or off)
- After turning on Amazon Kids, follow the on-screen prompts to create a profile or select an existing profile